Bedbugs at the Atlantis Paradise Island Goes to Court

Pizza in Motion wrote about a woman who is suing Atlantis Resort, Paradise Island in the Bahamas over what appears to be one of the worst cases of bed bug bites I’ve ever seen and their alleged unwillingness to address the situation.

I reached out both to the woman that’s suing the property, and to Atlantis, in order to learn more.

Cindi Avila is a former anchor for NY1, reporter for WWOR in New York, and producer for CBS News, MSNBC, and Fox News who now works in public relations.

She reports staying in room 5-552 of the Atlantis Royal Tower and discovering itchy bites on her body and seeing a small bug on the bed.

She saw the nurse on property and was given calamine lotion. She reported the situation to hotel management, but says that they didn’t want to address it and told her “that after she checked out they would check her room.”

She lifted the mattress of the bed in her room, and she took video which she provided:

Her pleas to management eventually brought staff to the room, but she says they didn’t act. She packed and left.

Cindi tells me it took her weeks to recover, that she “didn’t sleep for 5 nights” and that she wanted the hotel to ‘restore her confidence’ and that she “would have liked them to ask her back.. wanted to know they’re changing policies in the future.” But she says nobody called to express concern.

The hotel‘s spokesperson acknowledged “the problem” and provided a statement saying that they immediately took the room out of service and brought in their pest company. They say they have had no reports of bedbugs in the room in “the more than one year since her stay.” I’ve asked the obvious followup – whether they had reports of bedbugs in other rooms but have not yet received a response, I will update if they do respond.

The property says they provided her with compensation for her stay and offered to cover medical expenses and seems to suggest she’s unreasonable in her demands.


Credit: Cindi Avila

What I’m having trouble with is housekeeping, how a proper housekeeping program at a premium hotel would miss this. The hotel should know about the situation before a guest arrives — especially a property that has had reports of bedbugs in the past — take the room and surrounding rooms out of service, and address it.

Bed bugs can be difficult to eradicate, but all efforts should be made and any room that’s been identified to have them needs to be out of service until it’s absolutely certain they are gone and not merely hiding.

The only time I’ve ever had bedbug bites in all of my hotel stays was while staying at a luxury property in 2013. I discretely informed the hotel. They sent people to the room immediately. While they didn’t find anything, they moved me right away to a much better room. I actually stayed at the hotel again in 2014, and arranged with them to inspect the room in advance of my arrival. I’m not naming the property because I stayed elsewhere the previous night, and not being a bedbug expert I am not 100% comfortable ruling out the other hotel.


    Gary in 2013

Many hotels have bedbug issues. They’ve been common in major US cities like New York and Chicago. Bedbugs are said to smell like rotting berries. They hide under beds, inside luggage, and in furniture. Putting your bag down on bedbugs can transfer them to your luggage.

I expect a hotel I’m staying in to proactively identify problems and address them before they assign me a room. Perhaps that’s unrealistic, but I think any hotel failing to do that aggressively is falling down on its responsibilities in a major way.

Here’s the hotel’s full statement:

Atlantis, Paradise Island has the utmost concern and respect for every guest experience. Included in our protocol are very strict standards of hotel hygiene and cleanliness. In the unusual event we are made aware of a concern, we respond immediately to the situation and take the appropriate steps to remediate the problem as we did with Ms. Avila.

When Ms. Avila reported a concern about bedbugs in her room, the resort immediately took the room out of service, brought in the property’s professional pest company to eradicate the problem and provided compensation for her stay. The property had no prior complaints regarding Ms. Avila’s room and has had no reports of bedbugs in the room in the more than one year since her stay.

The resort offered to reimburse Ms. Avila for any medical bills resulting from her experience, which she declined. Since that time, Ms. Avila has repeatedly, and through three different attorneys, attempted to extract a large financial settlement from the resort and threatened intimidation in the media if her financial demands were not met.

Atlantis is dedicated to treating all guests fairly and handling claims professionally. We have engaged with Ms. Avila directly and then her multiple prior attorney’s continually over the year since this incident took place in an effort to resolve this matter. We regret that she has decided to take this course of action in a further effort to extract a large financial reward.

Avila’s lawsuit was filed in Florida court in Miami. Of course the incident took place in the Bahamas. Her attorney acknowledges there will be a jurisdictional argument over whether she consented to Bahamas jurisdiction or if she can sue where the corporation has offices.

It will be interesting to see how this case progresses — though most cases don’t reach a final verdict, I’d love to know what bed bug bites are ‘worth’.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. That has to be one of the creepiest videos I have ever seen. Oh my! Makes me want to check my hotel bed each time (and yes I know I should anyway)!

  2. Don’t know he whole story but I have gotten beg bugs once from a hotel as well… these things are terrible so I sympathize… but I do fee like maybe the hotel rubbed her the wrong way and she’s blowing this way out of proportion and is just trying to extort. 3 attorneys probably also suggest no one wants to take on her case be abuse she doesn’t have one

  3. Anyone who’s been to Nassau will confirm that it’s a dirty town on a poor dirty island. The resorts and hotels are all expensive dumps. The locals are generally a nightmare to deal with. Anything you tell them goes in one ear and out the other. The only source of income for the Bahamas is tourism, and they treat tourists like sponges to be squeezed dry. I spend on average 6 weeks a year there on business, and it’s awful.

  4. Gary or Rene: could one of you write a post about proactively dealing with these nasty creatures when traveling?

  5. I’ve only had bed bugs once before, which was the St. Regis Osaka (of all places). Poor lady, that looks terrible. Funny how they almost seem to be more common in high end hotels (or maybe that is all I hear about).

  6. Can’t watch video; it’s blocked here. But photos of her arm are enough. I don’t fault her in the least to get whatever she can. All it takes to get rid of these suckers is heat. I know specific hotels that run those machines when guests are not in the rooms and that all it takes. Of course, you need to change and wash linen, etc. Kind of sounds like Atlantis didn’t. Yuck. Good Luck to her–she deserves everything she can get.

  7. I’ve had bed bugs before and it is a NIGHTMARE. I can promise you, whatever they intended to compensate her likely will not truly cover the costs –

    Other than perhaps a medical bill to get treatment for those rashes (assuming the nurse on-site wasn’t sufficient), if she brings the bugs home she’d have to face:
    -laundering / dry cleaning ALL her clothes. Keeping them sealed for at least two weeks, with the exception of the few she intends to wear
    -having your home fumigated/treated. When this happens, you have to heat treat (to some degree, depending on the material – shoes, purses, STUFF – and put them away in taped up garbage bags
    -live in your home for two weeks which now looks like a bubble
    -go through fumigation/treatment after two weeks.

    assuming they are done and rid of after the two weeks, you can unpack and get your life back together, but if not, you’ll continue to live in said bubble until they’re fully eradicated. This doesn’t even factor in how crazy you’ll become going forward anytime you feel an itch.

    Not sure what their reimbursement was going to cover, but all that costs a few thousand dollars – assuming you don’t end up having to stay in a hotel if your apartment is too small to live in with all your stuff in garbage bags. Definitely not a situation anyone wants to be in!

  8. Cindi Avila is a former anchor for NY1, reporter for WWOR in New York, and producer for CBS News, MSNBC, and Fox News who now works in public relations.

    The real problem is the source, next the tenants before them needs to sign a statement, if no complaint, then quite possible Cindi was the source.

    Bedbugs are often brought in, they do not just rent the room, and it could be sand fleas,

    There are two sides to any coin.

  9. It sounds like the resort handled this in a reasonable manner, and Cindi Avilia is just looking to cash in a lottery ticket. Going through three lawyers suggests there’s something wrong with her, and it’s probably that she hopes her status as a media figure gives her leverage to extort more than what is fair.

  10. I was thinking of going to Bahamas. Now, I am will be avoiding staying at Atlantis like a plague..
    She should sue them and get $$ for her pain and suffering. Only then, the big conglomerate Atlantis/Marriott will respond in the future to customer complaints and not be so arrogant…

  11. I’m with @Joey. We had them last year in our bed (no idea and we both travel quite a bit) and it is a huge ordeal to get rid of them. One quote was $4K. Not a big deal but part of the agreement meant we took every single piece of clothing, curtains, bedding, in the ENTIRE house… have it laundered in hot water, dried hot and then bagged up and sealed until we had the house contained. Turned out it was much more minor – only in our bed, and we had to deal with one room and get rid of our bed and furniture.

    Here’s my question: how would housekeeping not see this if they were changing the sheets? They should be on continual high alert for any dark spots on the bedding. Based on the video, this was way worse than a new recent case of bed bugs. I would be livid because they had to have known. On another note, Atlantis holds a deep memory from when I went on a vacation with a media tour. They put me in a smoking room when the agency requested non-smoking. They did not care and they would not do anything about it. I wouldn’t go back there if you paid me.

  12. If you have ever unknowingly brought home bedbugs from a hotel you will never forget it. I did not have a clue. After a stay at one of my favorite hotels in Gulf Shores Al in March 2015, I began to notice bites on my body, first from sitting on my couch, then in my recliner, then when I was on my mattress. I realized what it was, had Terminex inspect and sure enough i had brought them home with me.

    Process including taking every piece of linen including drapes, bedding, all of our clothes, everything that had a fabric, washing in hot water, or running through high heat in dryer. Bagging, sealing them and taking them out of my home. The exterminator used two processes freeze and chemicals, came back twice., They were excellent. My house looked a bomb had gone off in it. Then tried to put our life back together. encased all my mattresses, have bed bug monitors all over the house. Cost was 1500 .

    I was a teacher in the last months of teaching before retirement. I could not sleep, lost a large amount of weight, could not allow my children to visit my home for months, and would not go to theirs for fear of transferring the bugs to them. The mental distress was unbelievable. I went to bed every night praying that I would not wake up the next day. You literally develop post tramatic syndrome. Being a Christian I held on to the fact that there must be a reason for the crisis.

    We are post bed bug at this point. Yes I do travel. I pack everything in plastic, throughly inspect the rooms, wrap my luggage in garbage bags, shower when i get home, and put all my luggage in a thermal box.

    I pray that we never experience bed bugs again, but can never be sure.

    The Mental distress is indescribable!

  13. I brought bed bugs home from a stay at a luxury hotel in Orlando. A month-long nightmare ensued. I was almost eaten alive as they multiplied and attacked me every night. My entire body looked like the arm of the Atlantis guest before a pest control company could get rid of them. It took THREE visits. I am still terrorized by the mere thought of ever encountering bed bugs again. And yes, they are quite common on even the best hotels in many market such as New York and Chicago.

  14. Extortion. Cindi refused the hotel’s offer to pay medical bills, instead opting to sue for a large settlement and smearing them publicly.

    I’ve been through bedbugs… at one of the Motel 6’s in Portland, OR in Dec.2000. It was hugely traumatic for me. When I found them at 00:15 in the morning and couldn’t find anyone at the front desk, I decided to pack my bags immediately and leave. I captured a few in a plastic cup and sealed them with duct tape. I had nowhere to go and no money, so I drove around downtown Seattle all night long. At 8 am the library opened. I went inside and found the address for the Health Department. (Yes, this was in 2000 and smart-phones didn’t exist… people had to visit libraries to get info.)

    Upon getting the address, I drove bleary-eyed to the Health Department and sat in their reception area until someone agreed to see me. I showed them my plastic cup full of bugs. They took the “sample” and all the hotel information.

    I survived the rest of that day through a fog of exhaustion. I checked into another hotel for the next night, leaving all my possessions in my car.

    Several days later, I was back home. My suitcase was still in the trunk of my car, where it remained throughout that freezing winter and for the next 6 months. A few days after arriving home, I did receive a call from the Portland Health Department. They confirmed that my “sample” was bedbugs, and that they explored the hotel room and had found an infestation. They went through appropriate steps to cleanse the room and discuss with hotel mgmt.

    It was a terrible experience for me. The hotel severely berated me the morning after I checked out, accusing me of transporting “ticks” to their hotel, and refusing to refund my money for that night & the following 2 nights which I’d prepaid. The fear of contaminating my home lingered for months afterward. 7 months after my stay (after 3 months of freezing cold temperatures and several more months of fear), I finally dragged my suitcase out of the trunk of my car. I emptied all my clothes (which I hadn’t seen for 7 months) into the middle of the street. In the bottom of my suitcase, I found 1 dead bedbug.

    I will never forget that December experience… feeling something on me, turning on the light, seeing multiple bugs crawling on me, running for toilet paper, killing 1 and seeing blood squish out of it. Having nowhere to go at 1am in Portland in December, so driving all night in my car through the downtown streets to stay warm. Finding a phone booth, finding the library address, driving around in the dark until 8am opening time, to get assistance finding the Health Dept. Knowing that all my belongings were probably contaminated. (And as it turned out, they WERE.)

    Through all that, through the bug-bites and the lack of sleeping arrangements on my business trip, and the loss of my clothes/luggage for 7 months, and the horrific memory of seeing them crawling on me when I turned on the lights…
    It never occurred to me to sue.

    The truth is, I don’t think the hotel planted bedbugs in there. They were obviously brought by some disgusting/careless traveler. For the last 16 years, I’ve regretted that I didn’t hunt down the previous guests of that room and sue the filthy bastards that left bedbugs there.

    I’ll never stay at that chain again, nor in that town again. NEVER.

    But I would love to exact vengeance on the people who caused me that strife. The hotel didn’t cause it. Some guest caused it.

  15. My recent bed bug episode was in a two different hotels in Italy, in Pisa and Florence. The hotel managers were yelling at me and screaming from top of their lungs. Typical Italian Hospitality!
    They still charged me in full for the room and asked us to leave instead of giving us credit for our
    stay and offering something complimentary.
    We also had a similar situation in Paris and the same thing. The hotel management denied and
    made us feel guilty about complaining.
    I am glad that this woman is taking this hotel to court.

  16. And just to add for everyone who posted their story and those who didn’t… some advice we learned. We had Daytons come in. We had them come after we replaced the mattress/box springs and got rid of our entire bed suite. They encased every bed in the house (and our new one in the garage). After all the beds were encased, they used Diatomaceous Earth because I didn’t want chemicals (breast cancer survivor). The bugs eat them and explode. The bed has to be sitting on bug catchers (no bed suite anymore, just rails) and the powder went under the mattress, and in the rug surrounding the entire bed, on the walls and in our nightstands. They pulled our bed away from the wall and away from nightstands. You cannot have your phone hooked up from the wall and to your bed. Every connection to the bed needs to be broken. Bedbugs will die if they can’t get to people. Lower the temp in the house, they thrive in heat. Fortunately we never saw another one. They came back 3 times. We have no idea how they got into the house, someone could have brought them in or we could have from traveling. They did suggest that when traveling, leave your suitcase in the car… go into hotel room, look under mattress and check everything and only then bring your bags in. Never put bags on floor or sofa, better to be on a desk. Tips of the day and good luck all.

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